I dropped out of school after the 10th grade. My father P. Pandi is a labourer at a rice mill near Anupanadi and my mother Karpagavalli is a home-maker. I have an elder brother and a sister who work in grocery shops in Madurai. Initially, I worked at a pani puri stall near our home. I earned around Rs.3,000 per month and it wasn’t sufficient to support the family. The stall owner taught me to chop vegetables uniformly. I used to chop five kilos of carrot and onion everyday.
I joined Chappathi Park restaurant two years ago. I am 19 years old now and I have picked up the art of cooking. Yet, I never cook at home. My work timings are from noon to midnight. I earn Rs.7,000 now and I am trying to save some money to buy a moped to commute to work. Everyday, I attend to hundreds of orders and make different varieties of noodles, fried rice, chinese manchurian and other Indian fast food items such as paneer roll and mushroom chapati. I learnt to cook Chinese fast food from Sonai, who was highly experienced. As a kid, I dreamt of studying catering and working in star hotels abroad. I used to watch the cookery shows on TV and fantasised cooking gourmet meals. But I couldn’t afford to study further as I had to work to enhance my family income.
Nevertheless, I feel happy that I am doing what I always wanted to. Customers have come to praise my cooking and the rolls I prepare have become popular among the office goers.
(A fortnightly column on men and women who make Madurai what it is)